Skip to main content

Full text of "My Country And My People"

See other formats

6             MY    COUNTRY    AND    MY    PEOPLE

times, beyond hope and beyond redemption. Is it the strength
or the weakness of old age, one wonders? She has defied the
world, and has taken a nonchalant attitude toward it, which her
old age entitles her to do. Whatever happens, her placid life
flows on unperturbed, insensible to pain and to misery, im-
pervious to shame and to ambition—the little human emotions
that agitate young breasts—and undaunted even by the threat
of immediate ruin and collapse for the last two centuries.
Success and failure have ceased to touch her; calamities and,
death have lost their sting; and the overshadowing of her
national life for a period of a few centuries has ceased to have
any meaning. Like the sea in the Nietzschean analogy, she
is greater than all the fish and shell-fish and jelly-fish in
her, greater than the mud and refuse thrown into her. She is
greater than the lame propaganda and petulance of all her
returned students, greater than the hypocrisy, shame and greed
of all her petty officials and turncoat generals and fence-riding
revolutionists, greater than her wars and pestilence, greater
than her dirt and poverty and famines. For she has survived
them all. Amidst wars and pestilence, surrounded by her
poor children and grandchildren, Merry Old China quietly
sips her tea and smiles on, and in her smile I see her real
strength. She quietly sips her tea and smiles on, and in her
smile I detect at times a mere laziness to change and at
others a conservatism that savours of haughtiness. Laziness
or haughtiness, which? I do not know. But somewhere in
her soul lurks the cunning of an old dog, and it is a cunning
that is strangely impressive. What a strange old soul! What
a great old soul!


But what price greatness? Garlyle has said somewhere that
the first impression of a really great work of art is always un-
nerving jto the point of painftdness. It is the lot of the great
to be misunderstood, and so it is China's lot. China has been
greatly, magnificently misunderstood. Greatness is often the
term we confer on what we do not understand and \vish to